How to Overcome Burnout in the Workplace

Illustration of an exhausted woman sitting at her desk

Do you struggle to drag yourself out of bed in the morning every day, and spend the next eight hours wishing you were anywhere else but at work? And do you go home, crumble up into a ball on the sofa, eating to your heart’s content, but then spend the night tossing and turning in bed?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to all those questions, then you might be dealing with a little something called burnout without even realising it.

And you’re not alone: both men and women experience workplace burnout before they even turn 30! But how do you overcome this lack of interest and general feeling of stress?

We’ve devised a list of tips to help you combat workplace burnout and find the passion that you need to enjoy a healthy career with the ideal work-life balance.

1. Know how to identify burnout

You don’t just wake up one day and suddenly have burnout like the common cold. It creeps up on us over time, which is what often makes it so difficult to recognise. That said, our body still sends us warning signs – we just need to keep a lookout for them before it’s too late. Some common burnout signs include:

  • Constantly feeling exhausted and having no energy to do anything
  • Experiencing disturbed sleep and flu-like symptoms
  • Experiencing a lack of concentration, feeling your mind zoning out on a regular basis and not being able to complete a single task
  • Feeling irritated and frustrated for no reason, and extremely self-critical and self-doubting
  • Feeling overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks like going food shopping or being in crowded areas
  • Feeling uninterested in activities that you once used to enjoy, like cycling or swimming

2. Ask for flexibility

If you feel that you’re at the end of your tether, approach your boss and ask for some flexibility. You could discuss the possibility of more lenient working hours or a remote work arrangement, for example. In fact, numerous studies have proven that flexibility in the workplace often leads to more productive, loyal and happier employees.

3. Take time off

Sometimes, a nice long break is all you need to recharge your batteries and overcome the feeling of exhaustion. You’re given annual leave for a reason, so use it when you really need it – even if it’s for a staycation to catch up on some well-needed sleep.

4. Learn to prioritise well

The ability to identify and prioritise important tasks is essential within the workplace; without it, you can easily work yourself into a real mess and waste hours on things that aren’t even necessary. Spending 5–10 minutes each day prioritising your to-do list will make a world of difference!

5. Establish new relationships

Often, the people that you surround yourself with at work can have a huge effect on your outlook. Christina Maslach and Michael P Leiter, joint authors of ‘Conquering Burnout’, an article published in the Scientific American in 2015, say that ‘receiving good vibes from others is an uplifting experience, but so, too, is expressing them to others’. In other words, if your work pals aren’t doing your health any favours, find more positive colleagues that will help keep you energised throughout the day.

6. Meditate

Numerous studies have confirmed time and time again that mindfulness meditation produces positive long-term effects on our psychological wellbeing, reducing anxiety, stress and other mental disorders. It’s, therefore, a good idea to begin your day by spending as little as 10 minutes meditating and effectively releasing your mind and body from any toxic thoughts and feelings.

7. Get a change of scenery

Occasionally, a small change like moving desks, redecorating your cubicle or even adding a couple of plants to your workspace is all you need to rewire your brain and remedy yourself of burnout. If you’re moving your workspace, meanwhile, try sitting next to a window with access to plenty of fresh air and daylight.

8. Set realistic goals

By setting yourself realistic goals, you can mentally prepare for what it is that you need to achieve. You’ll feel satisfied once you reach your target, and this allows you to then set other objectives. Generally speaking, this will help you move on in your career and achieve a new personal record.

9. Adjust your attitude

If you’ve become cynical at work, you probably need to adjust your outlook. Re-evaluate what it is that you enjoy about your job and focus on the positives that you discovered when you first took the role. Start recognising colleagues for their good work and, in return, they may begin to praise you, too.

10. Get support

If reaching out to your supervisor or boss is a no-go, consider finding a support group that will help you recover from burnout. You could also discuss your issues with your GP who will be able to refer you to a counsellor who, in turn, will help you recognise the root of the problem and offer you guidance on overcoming it.

11. Exercise

Regular exercise can help you relieve unwanted stress, making you feel mentally and physically healthier. Along with a balanced diet, it can improve your attitude in the workplace. If you don’t have time to exercise during the week, though, why not take a look at some of these desk exercises?

12. Get some sleep

Getting less than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout, especially when you consider the negative effects it can have on your productivity and overall work performance. In other words, you may you want to try sleeping early.

13. Unplug when you log off from work

With today’s technological advances, it’s extremely difficult to switch off once clocking out for the day. If you have your work emails connected to your personal phone, you’ll be tempted to check them on the commute home and even as soon as you wake up in the morning. It’s important to avoid this and to be able to separate work from your personal time.

14. Take frequent breaks

Are you guilty of spending a whole eight hours sitting in front of your computer screen, not moving a muscle unless you desperately need to pee or make a quick cup of coffee? If so, you’re damaging your health and your sanity. In other words, take frequent breaks – even if it’s just getting up and out of your chair for 30 seconds.

15. Learn to say ‘no’

Do you keep taking on extra duties just to try and prove yourself? If so, you’re probably driving yourself into the ground by not giving yourself any breathing space. Learn to say ‘no’, and make a point of leaving work on time to ensure you unwind and are ready for the following day.

16. Find a mentor

Find a coworker who’s experienced in the field and who manages stress well. They can give you tips on how to do your job more efficiently as well as manage emotions in a highly stressful environment. If you can’t find anyone on your team, meanwhile, speak to your HR department who will be able point you in the right direction.

17. Do something for yourself

Finding an activity that you enjoy doing outside of work can give you something to look forward to and will make your day go by faster. It could be anything from playing football with friends or going to a Zumba class. Whatever it is, make sure you allocate some time in your day to do something for yourself!

18. Disconnect from social media

Chances are you probably spend hours scrolling through Facebook and Instagram seeing successful influencers live a lavish lifestyle and run a successful business, which can often make you question your own life choices and stress you out. So, to avoid these feelings, disconnect from social media and spend some time in the evening to focus on your self-development.

19. Change your diet

The food that you eat can be affecting your mood and energy levels. While a sugary treat and junk food will initially make you feel good, it will make you hit a slump a few hours later. To keep your energy consistent throughout the day, snack on healthy alternatives and eat a balanced diet.

20. Consider changing careers

Despite your best efforts, it’s sometimes simply impossible to shift workplace burnout. If you find yourself in this situation, it may be time to consider finding a new job or changing careers altogether. Remember: some industries can be extremely stressful and difficult to cope with, so if you really can’t keep up, it’s really not a crime to consider your other options!

When it comes to the workplace, it’s important not to let a bad boss or industry pressure affect your health. Follow these tips to learn how to deal with burnout in the workplace before it’s too late.

Are you currently dealing with workplace burnout? How are you coping and working towards overcoming it? Let us know in the comments section below!


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 30 April 2018.